George Barnes is a salt-of-the-earth man with a practical approach to life. And so he doesn’t think twice about looking on as the undertaker prepares his mother’s body. But once the body is lowered into the ground, the old woman haunts George in his dreams, not as she was in life, but as he saw her in death, with cotton balls in her eye sockets and her jaws wired shut. George is convinced that, with the mute movements of her jaws, she is accusing him. He should never have allowed his mother to be embalmed; it was an indignity to her body.
The following spring, as the dreams are subsiding, a farming accident shatters the Barnes family. While Emily Barnes is walking through the drive shed, Ford, the eldest son, throws the tractor into reverse and pins her to the wall. Faced with his wife’s body, George can’t help but remember his mother’s accusation, and so, with the help of his boys, he wraps his wife in a shroud and buries her beneath her favourite maple tree.